Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"And He Gave Gifts to Men"

Two very worthwhile blog comments, which cause me to rejoice and thank God. They are from two much younger men than I who give me cause to be encouraged about the future of those they lead.

Alan Knox:

I grew up in the deep South in the 70’s and 80’s. We grew up going to church where ordained ministers would hold services on Sundays. Perhaps it was only me, but I saw this as holy men performing holy services on holy days in holy places.

As I’ve continued to study Scripture, I see that my understanding while I was growing up is much closer to the Old Testament than to the New Testament. But, what’s the problem with that? The Old Testament is Scripture too, right?

Yes, but when it comes to things like the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the Sabbath, and other aspects of life as the people of God in the New Testament, the New Testament tells us that these things are shadows of reality, and not reality themselves.

In other words, these things were all intended to point to something else, something bigger, something better. In fact, all of these things point forward to Christ, who fulfilled the whole law and became the better temple, high priest, sacrifice, and Sabbath.

Given my background, it is easy to switch back to thinking that there are holy days on which holy men do holy things in holy places. But, when this begins to cloud my understanding, I live in the shadows and not the reality of Christ. In Christ, all of God’s children are holy people; every day is a holy day; all opportunities to serve are holy offerings; and any place we are is a holy place, because we are the temple in which God dwells.

When do we live in the shadows? When we find ourselves asking questions like these: Should you do that on Sunday? Is there an ordained minister available to do that? Should they be doing that in the church [building]? Why is that person preaching [or teaching, or baptizing, or serving the Lord's Supper]?

These questions indicate a shift back into the shadowy thinking of the Old Testament. Today, in Christ, we have the realities available to us; we do not need the shadows.

Eric Carpenter:

"I Know What the Bible Says, But..."
I'll never forget the time I heard someone say, "I know what the bible says, but..."

A few years ago, while I was attending seminary, I had the opportunity to preach for a church whose pastor was on vacation. I arrived at the building on Sunday morning and was greeted by some very nice folks. As was expected, I was given about 30 minutes to speak to them. Everything was fine.

After the service, one of the deacons and his wife took me out for lunch. We had a good conversation, the food was good, and (bonus) he picked up the bill.

Despite all this, what really sticks out for me is what he said at one point during the meal. We were talking about their church and, specifically, their deacons. He told me that they have ladies serving as deacons. Then he said, "I know what the bible says, but..." He then went on to justify ladies serving as deacons based on pragmatic reasons.

My point in this post is NOT to debate whether or not women should serve as deacons. I know there is a lot involved in that discussion.

Rather, my point is that this man, who I'm sure has good intentions, based his view on women deacons on pragmatics. He actually believes that their church is violating scripture but that this is somehow acceptable because it works.

It is easy to fault this man. Instead of doing that, let's take a hard look at our own lives. How often do we say we believe one thing but then live another way? How many times do we believe the bible says one thing, but then turn around and do the opposite? How many times do we do things just because "they work"?

Most Christians say they believe the bible. Most say they believe the bible is our final authority. We all say these things. But do we really believe it?

If we dare, let's take a hard look at our lives to see where we are in reality saying, "I know what the bible says, but..."

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Was There!

Why did I write the previous post? Because I personally know that of which I'm writing!

There's an old saying,
"It takes one to know one!"

Becoming a follower of Christ when quite young,I am now ashamed to say that I spent a large part of my life in the guise of a Pharisee.

About the only thing I didn't do was to fast twice a week.

Appearances were so very important, but that which was visible didn't reflect the internal realities and the sheer effort of being seen to be what others expected of me.

Although I proudly declared that Christ was my all sufficiency, my striving was for the approval of those who were in leadership, both at a local church level and denominational.

If you are wondering: I was zealous for my faith. When I was appointed to the leadership of the church I preached the Scriptures according to my theological persuasions. Praying was extremely important and I learned to pray the flowery, pious, long winded prayers which some of my older brethren could pray. A low income, a wife and five children didn't conspire to allow a proper tithe, a fact which burdened my Pharisaical heart with guilt. The appearance of moral perfection was paramount, to which my dear children could attest. The effort my wife and I put into church attendance was extreme, and how we revelled in the applause of those who knew the long trip we made every Sunday. I was as orthodox an evangelical as one could be.

Oh! How God would be impressed!

I soon discovered otherwise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So Many Questions.

I cannot help but wonder whether many orthodox evangelicals simply see empty words, which have no real significance, when reading the words of Jesus, the Head of the Church. As the King of kings, He is speaking to His subjects. As the Shepherd of the sheep, He is speaking to His flock, as the Head of His household, He is speaking to the other members of the household, His brethren, all of which appellations evangelicals claim.

I wonder why this is, when all orthodox evangelicals declare, quite emphatically, that the Scriptures are God’s word to His people, His instructions for living a life pleasing to Him, a life in right relationship with Himself and the rest of His family, yet decide that He doesn’t mean what He says and that He needs to be interpreted by them, or that His words don’t apply to them?

Arminian or Calvinist will agree that the recorded words of Jesus are the words of
He who said,
"I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent
me commanded me what to say and how to say it"

When Jesus was baptized, one of the rare recorded occasions when the voice of the Almighty God was heard, He said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; LISTEN TO HIM.”

Then why are we not listening to Him, and taking serious notice of Him when He gave the warning to His disciples,
"Be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees"?

Notice that Jesus “gave the warning to His disciples”. It was to His followers, His disciples, which evangelicals claim to be, to which He gave this warning. His disciples, or followers, and in our context, genuine Christians, are the people with whom He had, the closest of relationships, who walked with Him, lived in relationship with Him, ate with Him, endured hardship with Him, and whom, except one, had been faithful in that relationship.

And yet; it seems that there are among us, many, maybe a majority, and even those in the “high places” of Christian learning, who think they are above such warnings.

Why is it that we can become so proud that we consider ourselves to have reached such a pinnacle of proud religiosity that we can forget that there are absolutely none so spiritually strong and mature, so sanctified, that he/she cannot fall?

Why can we not see that even though the Holy Spirit of God has drawn us into a right relationship with the Father, through the finished work of Christ, and that, even though we are justified by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified by His Holy Spirit, we have NOT become infallible, unable to fail, simply because we are the still flesh and blood we always were, still in the body, into which life was breathed, and still facing the same temptation as always, and still weak and liable to the same failures in our understanding of Biblical truth, function in our own lives, and in the group of believers with whom we fellowship.

Who is so bold as to say they are stronger than those heroes of the faith who stumbled through their walk, such as Peter did? I certainly will not put up my hand to that!

Again, I cannot help but wonder whether our blindness is because we have become Pharisees , who, it seems, were the original blueprints of much of what is regarded as being a good evangelical church member?

The Pharisees knew their Bibles; were disciplined in prayer; fasted twice a week; gave about a third of their income to their church; were moral (very moral); many had been martyred for their faith; they attended ‘church’ regularly; they were evangelical/orthodox; and evangelistic, they were very careful about how spiritual they appeared, piously defending, very vigorously, their own righteousness.

They do seem familiar! I wonder why?